HomePhilippine Journal of Psychologyvol. 35 no. 1 and 2 (2002)

The Case for an Indigenous Psychology

Rita H. Mataragnon

Discipline: Psychology



Much as academic people like to think of themselves as residents of an ivory tower, the truth is that academic development does not take place in a vacuum, or even in an ivory tower. Academic development is closely related to and even dependent on the prevailing social and political climate of a country. Kuhn (1962) in his insightful analysis of the history of science, has shown how the acceptance of particular theoretical positions is not entirely an objective process, but determined by social factors and even by the personality characteristics of advocates of competing theoretical perspectives. Today, as Asian psychologists find new pride and enlightenment in their own cultural identities, they begin to suspect that there is no true academic freedom when the criteria for good psychology depends on the extent to which it resembles the imported materials of their colonizers. Such may lead to an occasionally indiscriminating rejection of anything Western and a wholesale enthusiasm for anything indigenous. But although many an indigenous psychology may come about because of a socio-political consciousness of one’s identity as a culture, there are sufficient academic considerations to make a case for an indigenous psychology. Ultimately, it is these academic bases which should sustain our unimpassioned commitment to indigenous psychology long after the spark of political consciousness kindled our initial interest in it. This paper is an attempt to show why and how indigenous psychology makes good methodological sense. In most scientific research, complete mastery over treatments and measurements is not possible. Various factors conspire to jeopardize the internal and external validity of any research undertaking. A most general example of a jeopardizing factor for internal validity is an extraneous variable, while that for external validity asks the question of interpretability of results or the “airtightness” of relationships between variables. External validity asks the question of representativeness, generalizability and true-to-life-ness. “While internal validity is the sine qua non, and while the question of external validity, like the question of inductive inference, is never completely answerable, the selection of designs strong in both types of validity is obviously our ideal” (Campbell and Stanley, 1966).